Reader letter: The re-opening of playgrounds should be on the coronavirus recovery road map for the good of our children
In the early stages of the Covid-19 crisis, children and young people experienced stay-at-home orders and the closure of schools, childcare, playgrounds and some other outdoor spaces, along with the loss of opportunities for learning and socialising.
In recent days, the UK Play Safety Forum has analysed emerging evidence on the effects of the imposed restrictions in terms of reducing the risk of Covid-19 transmission and the detriments to children.
It concluded the current UK interventions need to be urgently reviewed because children and young people have been and are suffering harm.
The research highlights the evidence is the risks posed by Covid-19 to children playing in outdoor spaces is low and therefore there is the necessity for proportionate decision making which requires trade-offs between the risks and benefits of safety interventions to be part of the decision process.
The research anal ysis in a nutshell, is current UK policy on play restrictions is more harmful to children than beneficial.
Data from seven countries, including the UK, show that over the three-month period February-May 2020, more than twice as many children died from influenza than from Covid-19.
Overall, there were about 13,200 deaths from all causes in the seven countries, including more than 1,000 from unintentional injury, compared with 44 Covid-19 fatalities.
The forum highlights that the scientific consensus is the risk of Covid-19 transmission is much lower outdoors than indoors, primarily because of the natural ventilation provided by air currents which disperse viruses quickly, diluting them to low concentrations. It is also possible to maintain social distancing more easily outdoors.
In Sheffield and throughout the whole of South Yorkshire, children and young people are emerging from the lockdown and being reintegrated through phased returns back into schools.
Planning through government and other public bodies, along with funding has been designated towards attaining this aim.
Despite the huge benefits outdoor play and specifically adventure playgrounds provide for children’s and young people’s health, fitness, cognitive, social, creative, moral and physical growth and development and despite the lockdown adversely affecting and closing these outdoor play facilities, which are essential to children’s and young people’s best interests and their wellbei ng, adventure playgrounds have been left off the government’s Covid-19 road map to recovery.
As playing outdoors is safer for children and young people than being indoors, this presents not only a lost opportunity, but a travesty for children and young people.
It is every child’s and young person’s right to be able to play and here in Sheffield and other parts of our region, we have a long history and tradition of recognising this and supporting this right.
This Covid-19 crisis should not take this away and therefore I call upon all those in positions of power and influence, including our public health officials and elected politicians, to make the case for our children’s and young people’s play rights and needs and to ensure play and adventure playgrounds are put solidly on the Covid-19 recovery road map and financially supported to enable our children and young people to be able to access safe, stimulating, challenging, health-and-fitness-promoting open-access adventure playgrounds.
This needs to be done in a planned, phased and fully resourced way to support our children and young people and secure these essential services’ survival and development for this generation and generations to come.
After all, our children and young people deserve nothing less.
Pitsmoor Adventure Playground